In Your Midst

The Pew Next to You

Xmas 2007

Meet the Acevedo Family

The Acevedo Family
Jennifer and Humberto Acevdo with Elena, Marco, and Diego.  Today, they got to St. James Cathedral by Flexcar.

Jennifer and Humberto Acevedo have been parishioners at St. James Cathedral since the summer of 1994 when Sunday Masses were held at “St. Gym” in O’Dea High School during the renovation of the Cathedral.  As a young couple new to Seattle—Jennifer was from the Midwest, Humberto from Mexico—they lived two blocks north of the Cathedral at the John Alden Apartments. They thought they would both be working downtown and liked the idea of an urban lifestyle and walking everywhere.

However, Humberto soon joined Microsoft in Redmond and walking from First Hill was out of the question!  Commuting became a part of Humberto’s daily routine. As their family grew with the births of Diego, Marco and Elena, they moved to Bellevue, and until a year ago, were a typical Eastside family with an SUV for transportation.

When their SUV needed to be replaced, it prompted a radical decision.  The family couldn’t agree on what type of car to get to replace their aging vehicle, and being of a determined nature, Jennifer suggested they try living without a car.  And a year later, they are still committed to defying the “American way of life.”

Jennifer’s personal belief is that the petroleum industry has a less than honorable control on the economic and ecological aspects of transportation.  While not everyone can function without a car, she believes that using less petroleum is a contribution to the greater good.

“You really have to have several prerequisites to make it work,” Jennifer said. “We live in downtown Bellevue near public transportation, taxi service and Flexcar availability. Many neighborhoods in King County do not have regular public transportation.”

Humberto takes a bus to his Redmond office. The children are bused to school. Humberto knew his commute would be easy while the burden of figuring all the other logistics for the family would fall to Jennifer, who does not work outside the home.

Jennifer admits it is not easy and careful planning is critical.  She relies on five modes of transportation: walking, bicycling, public transportation and Flexcar. (Founded in 1999 as a partnership supported by King County and the City of Seattle, Flexcar launched its Seattle operation in 2000. Since that time Flexcar has expanded down the West Coast and to the East Coast. Flexcar has won numerous awards and commendations for providing a service that reduces congestion, air pollution, energy use, increased use of public transit and contributes to sustainable communities. There is a monthly membership fee and either an hourly or day fee when using a Flexcar.  The Seattle area standard rate is $10 an hour or $75 a day. The fees covers gas, insurance and upkeep of the vehicle.)

Grocery shopping for a family of five without a car takes a good deal of ingenuity. Jennifer buys non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies and paper products online and these are delivered to their home. Fruits, vegetables, bakery items, meats, seafood are bought at nearby stores and carried home.

One of the first benefits of their new lifestyle that Jennifer discovered was how much closer she and the children became while walking to a bus stop or a neighborhood store and when riding on a bus. When she was driving, Jennifer’s  attention would be on the traffic.  Now they talk to each other, interact with each other. The children have learned bus behavior and safety. Bus drivers are friendly and quickly recognize them and know where the family gets on and off.

They walk to the movies, library and several parks in downtown Bellevue. During the summer the take their fishing poles and walk to the Meydenbauer dock and hope for fish in Lake Washington. Another favorite is the city park in Kirkland, also on the lake. Sometimes when another child is with them they get a little halting conversation about “how much farther?” and “walking!??”  Jennifer considers these moments a teaching opportunity.

And of course, not every day is full of sunshine. Jennifer has said when it is rainy and cold, it can be miserable. But they have found that when it is raining, it rarely is a continuous downpour and with umbrellas, slickers and rubber boots it’s not that bad.

Early on in their car-free lifestyle, their kindergartner Elena asked her mother, “Why do we have to walk?” Mom’s reply was, “Because we don’t have wings to fly.” Elena’s response: “Oh, bummer.”

They do more as a family at home with each other. Board games are big as are kitchen cooking classes from Jennifer. DVDs are in, TV is out. They are all asked to help around the home including raking leaves. Marco, the future CEO, often tries to up the going rate to at least $10 an hour for his superior assistance.

This month the Acevedos have the Advent Calendar out, have arranged the figures around the crèche (many times) and popped the Christmas tree out of its box in the attic.
I asked Jennifer how the children have responded during the past year to their green lifestyle. She answered that children readily accept what the family does. Jennifer sees the past year as a positive one for her family.

“They are physically stronger from the walking and biking. We do so many more things together here at home. It has been rewarding. Humberto has been amazed at the awesome responses he gets from his co-workers and friends.”

Jennifer is working on building a blog as she gets quite a few requests from friends on how she has accomplished being a car-less family and giving back a little to Mother Earth.

Joan McDonell is a Marriage Tribunal Advocate at St. James Cathedral as well as a daily volunteer in the Cathedral Parish Office.

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